May 18, 2010

See How Much Lucky We Are


As ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano continued to keep European airspace shut down over the weekend, affecting millions of travelers around the world, some government agencies and airlines clashed over the flight bans. Some restricted airspace is now beginning to open up and some limited flights are being allowed now as airlines are pushing for the ability to judge safety conditions for themselves. The volcano continues to rumble and hurl ash skyward, if at a slightly diminished rate now, as the dispersing ash plume has dropped closer to the ground, and the World Health Organization has issued a health warning to Europeans with respiratory conditions. Collected here are some images from Iceland over the past few days.

Travelers heading towards Europe are on a wing and a prayer. The second disruption of airline services in less than a month has left travellers in a dilemma with many suspending all but essential travel. With airlines cancelling services sporadically, peak holiday traffic from India is expected to be impacted.

Two of Europe's busiest airports -- London's Heathrow and Amsterdam's Schiphol -- were closed on Monday for a few hours as a dense cloud of volcanic ash drifted in from Iceland. The restrictions affecting Heathrow were also extended to airports across Britain and Ireland and some Scottish facilities as well.

Indian travellers who were expected to use London as a transit or a final destination are now looking at postponing travel. "The situation has become so unpredictable. Tourists are choosing to use stopovers in the Far East rather than Europe for travel to the US. But London is a very popular destination and this will affect travel there," Sharat Dhall, TripAdvisor India managing director, said.

TAAI's Rajinder Rai said the situation was very unfortunate. "It is early to assess but there is no doubt that airline cancellations will impact travel plans badly," he said.

Kashmira Commissariat, Kuoni India COO (outbound division), said, "We are in touch with our customers on the Europe tour and there has been no major impact. There have been no cancellations but some customers are postponing their tour."

Commissariat added, "With the cooperation and support of our partners that include hotels and airlines, we have catered to the requests of our customers on tour. There are new bookings coming up as well."

Dhall added that this could see a rise in demand for domestic travel and destinations like Malaysia. 

The April 14 eruption at Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano forced most countries in northern Europe to shut their airspace between April 15-20, grounding more than 100,000 flights and an estimated 10 million travellers worldwide. The shutdown cost airlines more than $2 billion.